Updated: January 24, 2020 3:20:42 am
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Thursday formally hitched his party on to the Hindutva bandwagon, launching a tirade against “Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslim infiltrators” and announcing a public rally on February 9 to seek their deportation.
In an attempt to fill the perceived political void after the Shiv Sena formed an alliance with the Congress and NCP, Thackeray was planning a reboot of his MNS to position it as a regional Hindutva party.
On Thursday, Thackeray unveiled the blueprint of his party’s way forward during an hour-long speech, in which he targeted the protests across India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), at Goregaon Sports Complex.
“It is important to send back these Muslim infiltrators. We need to answer the gatherings that are coming out on India’s streets with our own morcha (rally). On February 9, we will take out our own morcha to see the deportation of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims, who have come into our country,” the MNS chief said.
He said the anti-CAA protests across the country was an “expression of resentment” by Muslims, who had been seething over the withdrawal of Article 370 in Kashmir and the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi verdict.
Speaking about the party’s new saffron flag, he said he had perceived it when he had first thought of launching the party. He said he was forced to go with the previous version of the flag because of inputs of certain supporters who wanted the party to work towards social engineering.
The crux of Thackeray’s speech was directed at presenting himself as the proponent of Hindutva and targeting Muslims. He questioned the usage of loudspeakers at mosques in the city. He, however, refrained from directly criticising the Shiv Sena.
The MNS also appointed Thackeray’s son, Amit, as the leader of the party.
The shift in party’s outlook 14 years after its formation is seen as a planned effort with an eye on attracting disgruntled Shiv Sainiks as well as Hindutva supporters, who are disillusioned with Sena’s decision to join hands with the Congress and NCP.
According to sources, the BJP is keen to prop up the MNS as a counter to the Sena. Several BJP leaders, including former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, had held meetings with Raj Thackeray in the last few weeks. The BJP has, however, claimed it has no plans of having any alliance with the MNS, which has been known in the past to have taken a stand against North Indian migrants.
The fortunes of MNS have been in decline with the party winning a single seat out of the 101 it had contested in the 2019 Assembly elections.
Thackeray, once seen as an avid supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has over the years had a fallout with the BJP after the latter came to power in 2014. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the MNS chief had been increasingly critical of the BJP and had campaigned for the Congress-NCP in the state.
Thackeray said he will form a “shadow cabinet” of MNS leaders to keep an eye on the functioning of ministries in the current Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.
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